Thursday, October 30, 2008

Knowledge for a soft landing?

This blog focuses on knowledge to enhance economic and social development and to reduce poverty, especially in poor nations. But that orientation presupposes that there will be economic progress. For the next few years, I am afraid, there is going to be more economic recession than economic progress. I suspect, therefore, that there will be more need for and interest in knowledge to prevent or reduce economic decline than knowledge for development.
  • economists might focus on mining the experience with stimulus packages and the management of recessions,
  • management might focus on knowledge and skills to help them deal with falling sales and downsizing,
  • social scientists might focus on social policies to help deal with increasing unemployment and decreasing expectations,
  • educators might focus on policies to prepare students for niche occupations that survive recession well, and for riding out the hard times,
  • ecologists might focus on dealing with marginal lands that are going out of production due to contracting markets for primary products, and on the demands of rural populations that have added recourse to harvesting wild products when facing downturns in employment and markets,
  • epidemiologists might focus on the changes in morbidity and mortality that will result from worsening economic conditions and how to ameliorate the problems that will arise.
Knowledge systems that are working well during economic expansion may not work equally well in times of contraction. They may not make the shift needed to deliver the most relevant knowledge to the right people, and indeed may suffer from personnel cuts and lack of investment.

Lets hope that donor agencies and governments, not to mention academia make the switch.

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